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Depression and Childhood Abuse

Maybe too often we focus on physical causes of depression such as brain chemistry imbalance or vitamin deficiencies. While this is important, we should also remember that depression is usually triggered by painful life events such as the loss of a loved one. It is also crucial that we not forget that past childhood abuse is frequently a cause of depression in adults.

According to an article entitled “Changes in Brain Chemistry and Other Factors That Contribute to Depression,” on HealthyPlace.com, not only physical conditions change a person’s brain chemistry. Emotionally painful and stressful circumstances can do the same. Sometimes the changes are so profound that they may predispose us to depression for many years.

If one’s depression appears after a painful event(s), it’s fairly obvious that’s the trigger, but it’s not always clear. There are those of us who have suffered different types of abuse and/or trauma as far back as childhood, which may be the root cause of the depression.

Many survivors of abuse suffer a variety of psychiatric illnesses, including depression, many years after the abuse took place. When a trigger is not evident, it is especially important to explore past abuse as a cause of depression with a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

Past abuse and/or trauma could have changed the brain chemistry, but even more likely are the changes in the survivor’s level of self-esteem, the way she perceives herself and others, and the way she feels about life in general. Sometimes, however, memories of past abuse are repressed.

Years ago, there was sort of a “witch hunt” in the psychiatric field with regard to bringing forth repressed memories of abuse, and going after the abuser, as a means of therapy. Innocent people were accused of, and even prosecuted for, all forms of child abuse. Hypnosis was frequently used during these cases.

When under hypnosis, we are very vulnerable to any type of suggestions which can, in effect, create “false memories.” For this reason, if anyone suggests that you undergo hypnosis as a means of therapy and/or exposing repressed memories, my advice would be to find another therapist.

Many survivors do repress painful memories and for these people, the first recollection of these events can be as traumatizing as when the events actually happened.

Repressed memories normally come back to us gradually in flashes, or bits and pieces, when we are older, more mature, and better able to cope with them. It is my opinion that talking about your childhood with a therapist can trigger repressed memories to come to the surface, which may be very painful, but are also helpful in finding the root causes of your depression.

I believe that talk therapy is the only way to learn to cope with and to heal from traumatic events from the past—especially instances of abuse. An antidepressant, even if somewhat helpful in dealing with symptoms, can’t help you learn to cope and heal yourself.

If you (or someone you love) are suffering from depression without an obvious trigger, I strongly urge you to give talk therapy a try. Finding the root causes of your depression could save you many years of misery, and put you on the road to recovery.





“Changes in Brain Chemistry and Other Factors That Contribute to Depression.” HealthPlace.com, January 7, 2009.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Kitten Kristine Jackson. All rights reserved.
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